Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2004

The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari
Metropolis (1927)


Discussion Questions:
last updated December 28, 2004

1. Armstrong, Anne-Marie
2. Arvai, James
3. Bedard, Joshua
4. Bolen, Matthew
5. Brown, Liam
6. Chau, Tammy
7. Czypyha, Shane
8. Drago, Natalie
9. Krejcik, Andrea
10. Liu, Vivien
17. Myers, Elizabeth
11. Nelson, Aaron
13. Votruba, Michael

14. Chang, Clementine
15. Cichy, Mark
16. Gibson, Nancy
21. Julia Farkas -- missing

Italian Masters Students:
18. Christian Tognela
19. Francesco M. Mancini
7. Adriana De Angelis
20. Federica Martella

  1. What is the relationship between the expressionist theatre like setting for Caligari and the plot or action sequence of the film?  

Highly stylized costumes, makeup and settings are employed to tell the story of Dr. Caligari from the perspective of the protagonist. The décor is proudly or unabashedly artificial in a manner which calls attention to the disorienting character of the narrative through its high degree of bold, sharp and unsettling geometry. Actors and setting are one, collapsing upon each other in a which heightens the sense of chaos and dread which permeates the action and plot sequence of the film.

Emotion and confusion are intensified through settings which are imbued with artificiality, distorted perspective and the feeling of the audience and characters extreme dislocation. Patterns are employed on the geometric and primitive setting to intensify further the feeling of claustrophobia and mental anguish, effectively conveying no true or recognizable human dimension to the film.

Anne-Marie Armstrong 3B

  2. What similarities are there between the role of the set in Caligari and the role of the set in Golem?

There is an obvious artificiality of the sets of both films. Accurate Realism is not attempted. What is attempted by both films as role of the sets is a portrayal of reality as a constructed artifice of expressionism.

The sets in Caligari and Golem are not inert backgrounds to contain characters in the film. Both sets are a stylized reality that support the thematic core of the film. In Caligari, insanity and madness are central themes reflected in the angular disjointed expressionistic images painted on flat planes representing the built environment. In Golem, tenuous life as infirm clay is a central theme. This is mirrored in the three dimensional stylized clay sculptural abstractions of the built environment in the film.

While Caligari has a 2D format using flat planes as compared to Golems 3D solid sculptural spaces, both are expressionistic art forms. The expressionistic format is used to portray the same iconoclastic “village” type in both films. The iconography of the village image in Caligari is a 2D image of the village image of Golem. Both films have “village” sets where the “villain” commits villainous acts and both films have “nature” sets (outside the village) where the “villain” is overcome. The expressionistic set format in both films attempts to directly connect to the emotions of the film evoked by the villain. Cesare and Golem, constructs of the urban, when removed from the influence of the urban, are overcome by the natural innocence and goodness of Nature. The urban emotes fear and danger – nature emotes faith in goodness.

Central to all the similarities of the role of the sets in the two films is the creation of feelings through abstraction. The simulacra of expressionism is applied to space in the films. The result is the communication of feelings not possible through simple realism.

Jim Arvai 4A

  3. In a very short period of time, much technical advancement is made in the construction/role/filming of the set in Metropolis. How does this affect the nature of the film?  

Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is a visually compelling sci-fi film that uses many, technical advancements to create spectacular special effects in cinematography. These effects are powerfully expressive and give audience members an intriguing look into the future of architecture and the city.
Rather then shooting live on location or in a studio, Lang opted to combine both by constructing a six metre deep, wood, plaster and canvas scaled model of Metropolis. By doing so this enabled Lang to escape from the flat uninvolved background that was common to previous studio productions. He now created an intriguing futuristic model that could contain his sci-fi plot and allow for new techniques to bring his Metropolis to life.

Fritz relied upon trick shots to create an animation that helped bring the city alive. He did so by taking several perspective photographs of scaled objects (planes, trains, automobiles, etc.) within the modelled Metropolis. These objects would then be individually advanced in-between each shot. these shots would then be put together in the editing room, at a speed of 16-20 frames per second, to create a realistic animation of everyday life (the flow of traffic and airplanes) within the city of Metropolis. Another technical advancement created by Eugene Shufftan, known as the mirror glass technique (later developed into the “green or blue screens” commonly used in film today) combined live action shots within the miniature scaled model of Metropolis and produced accurate and believable scenes.
These new cinematography techniques along with the highly detailed scaled model of Metropolis allowed for Fritz to successfully intrigue members of the audience and place them as a pedestrian in the city watching the events and plot unfold before their eyes. This resulted in a powerful set that was visually compelling and helped construct a social, political and architectural perspective on the future metropolis.

Joshua Bedard 3B

  4. In Metropolis, what is the significance/iconographic reference to the use or occupation of the subterranean realm?  

In Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, the occupation and use of the subterranean realm holds a great deal of significance and iconographic reference. in the 1920’s Germany was a broken country struggling socially and economically for direction after their World War One defeat. The trials and tribulations of the workers who inhabited and worked in the subterranean realm in this film are similar to those which plagued Germany at the time. It was a never ending battle to keep the machines running in the film and in Germany a never ending struggle to get Germany on its feet again.
The interesting thing about this films portrayal of the subterranean realm is its somewhat prophetic nature. As the workers were coaxed by the robot Mary to destroy the machines which had been causing there life so much pain and hardship, so to were Germans coaxed by Hitler into the belief that eliminating all Jews and non-Arians would end there struggles.

Matt Bolen 3B

  5. In Metropolis, what is the significance/iconographic reference to the use or occupation of the “highrise” realm?  
  The specific iconic reference of the occupation of the High-rise realm can be split into two sections. Firstly is the humanistic representation of the body, and second is the desire for reconciliation with God.

The humanistic analogy is that of the natural form. The High-rise is the thinking being, the mind and brain, the driving mental force. The working catacombs are the hands, the physical motion, and the fuel for the mind. As the distance grows between the two classes, they become closer to anarchy, until finally it ensues. At this stage, the heart, the catalyst for agreeance, finally delivers their mediation.

The reference to the High-rise being the modern-day 'Tower of Babel' leads a suspicion that the upper classes are striving for a godly ideal, perfection in their own creation. The more they isolate themselves from the working class, kept in the dark catacombs of the machine, the further in fact they become from perfection. Instead God comes to the workers, as they need it the most. God's association with the workers promises a joint between the classes, a chance to mend their split. The real perfection is attained from the mediation of the High-rise and catacombs.

These two separate thoughts are in fact very much one and the same, in the sense that the iconography of the High-rise represents a sought perfection; but fails due to the separation from the very fiber that it needs to accomplish this.

Liam Brown 3B

  6. In Metropolis, how does the recognition of the impact of vertical transportation impact the film: its narrative, plot, connection between upper and lower? What is its significance?  
  The movie started with an introduction of the skyscrapers-filled cityscape, where the heights of these towers become a manifesto for modernization, made possible by the invention of the elevator.

As the plot unfolds, it suggests that civilization and power is of direct proportion to the idea of height and level difference. The mastermind of the metropolis city, Fredersen, not only placed his office on the top level of the tower, but in order to get there one must go up a set of steep staircase. When his employer Josephat was dismissed, the act of descending to the bottom of those steps reassures his lost of power.

The world of poverty and affluence, slavery and freedom, sublime and beautiful, exists at the two extreme heights. The only common volume which allows the connection to happen is the verticle transportation in the form of an elevator. It is depicted by Fritz Lang as a large elevating platform, as supposed to an enclosed ‘room’ which we are more familiar of in real life. As the three walls which enclose the space shift up and endlessly seep into the joint where the ceiling meets, it suggests downward movement. The space enclosed is therefore non-static. This not only emphasis the change of height is related to shifting between two world but also exaggerate the notion of shifting through the two worlds as a dangerous and transcending act.

To conclude, verticle transportation depicted in Metropolis reinforces both the plot and characters through the spatial experience of the elevator, and also the spatial relationship between characters.

Tammy Chau 3B

x 7. Connect the notion of insanity between the players and architecture of Caligari, Golem and Metropolis. x

1920,21 and 26/27 are the years of production of the three significant motion pictures: “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”, “The Golem” and “Metropolis”. All of them conceived in Germany, in a difficult moment of its history, are the portrait of an ill society coming out terribly hurt and burnt from World War I which will, unfortunatly and inevitably, conduct the country to World War II and its ultimate catastrophe. The previous and the future disaster is in the air, it’s everywhere and everybody shows it and feels it, characters on the scene and spectators in the cinema hall. War is pure insanity and the three films talk of insanity: insanity of leading unconscious people to disaster (Caligari/Kaiser imposing homicide/war on somnambulist Cesar/German people); insanity of accusing innocent people (the Jews of Golem); insanity of people no more able to recognize a good leader from the one that, being a robot without heart and sentiments (“robot Maria” in Metropolis), meant for transforming masses into machines incapables of any will and consequently the world around them (the city of Metropolis) in hell, is only an instrument of ruin. Art as expression of the soul which, at the time, the world was learning to study thanks to Freud and his theories and Architecture as icon of the social reality form and emphasize the scenary in which action takes place. Focus is stressed on the city and its buildings which reflect the dark side of human beings and their insane emotions. The uneven forms of buildings and furniture which derive from van Gogh’s pictures make grief touchable. The sketched city, which in Calegari can be seen from the Fair, reminds of Schiele. The serene and decorative architecture of Klimt’s landscape has become pure sorrow as have the buildings of the Jewish Ghetto and the Babylon like city of Metropolis. Cities’ architecture doesn’t remind anymore of the Impressionists’ positivism toward Modernization but represents tension between Nature and Civilisation typical of expressionists such as Schmidt-Rotluff, for example, who depicted urban reality as a symbol of evil and estrangement, the same emotions felt by people coming back from war, incapable of recovering.

Adriana De Angelis -- Italian Masters Exchange Student

In Dr. Caligari, The Golem and Metropolis insanity is a constant theme. It is shown through set design, cinematography, music and acting. Although insanity is portrayed differently in all three films, the theme of separation connects the insanity of the players in each.
In The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Francis looks back in time to tell a story, and once immersed in the tale you see that he has a very skewed reality. All the walls are on strange angles, windows are oddly shaped, all of nature seems dead, strange trees cover the landscape and leak out over the cemetary walls, men sit on stools that are much too high to work on desks that are much too short. We realize by the movie's end when his story fades back to reality that this strange perception is only a by-product of Francis' insanity.
In The Golem players don't suffer nearly as much from insanity, but the Jewish characters, due to their separation from Christian society, display a paranoia based on teh control they surrender to the ruling Christians. Rabbi Low foresees trouble for his people and sees fit to create a Golem to protect them. He manages to save his people, but only by destrouying the banquet hall with magic, then getting the Golem to save the life of the desperate king. In the young man who worked for Rabbi Low we see his insanity through his love for Miriam. He uses the Golem to kill the man who loves Miriam, but in the end puts her in harm at the hands of the Golem. Both characters only cause more disaster through their attempts to rectify situations that are magnified by their insanity.
In Metropolis Freder is separated from those who make his father's city work. He is allowed to play while those he calls his "brothers and sisters" work their life away. He is given what he wants and only when he can't have it do we see his insanity. The depths is a level of the city which Freder's father does not allow him to see, so when he sees a machine overheat he thinks it is a human eating monster. He is allowed to gatehr his wits and realizes it is just a machine. Whe he is searching for Mary and all the doors are locked he irrationally bangs on them and yells. This does not help him in getting the doors to open, but his insanity drives him to do it.
In all three films characters share insanity which is seen in a separation from something bigger that them. They suffer on different levels, and their insanity is illustrated differently but all players are shown to have a different reality that the sane people around them.

Shane Czyphya 3B


8. Why is the realization of the "robot persona" so intertwined with the generation of modern representation of the urban/film future? Refer to the "sleepwalking character" in Caligari, the "giant" in Golem and "Maria" in Metropolis.

  Initially what is the realization of the ”robot persona”? It is to bring into concrete existence, to cause to seem real or make appear real. A persona, a character assumes by and author in a written work, an individual’s social facade or front, hence an aspect of a persons character reflecting the role an individual is playing, here based on the characteristics of a robot or machine. Generally we could describe a robot as emotionless, logical, and without conscience or sensitivity. The comparison between the “robot personas” of Caesar, Golem and Maria are that each persona involves an aspect of psychosis, a fundamental mental derangement, characterized by a defective or lost contact with reality.

Secondly, the term modern relates to or is characteristic of the present or the immediate past or, the immediate past and its representation is made to create an artistic likeness to the present and immediate past as well as a statement or account made to influence opinion or action.

The urban and film future is subject for speculated displayed in all three films by means of plot, players, sets and effects. Essentially power, knowledge, technic and passion are themes that all three films explore, weather it is futurist or contemporary setting. The robot personas embody theses four elements and their psychotic states, resulting behavior and reactions to their environments, which are demonstrated throughout the films.

The robot personas states of being are developed by characters with knowledge whether scientific, magical or psychological. In each case, knowledge and power or the quest for power and/or domination whether in the realms of society, nature mystical or magical, has enabled them to explore learn and create. Similarly the modern world is the result of study, exploration, learning and development.

Aspects of each character, Caesar, the giant and Maria reflect aspect of our society. They also mirror the development of our society in technology and the sciences. Technology and engineering allows us to build and create. Maria in Metropolis who’s main character is initially human, stable, brave, caring and sensitive to others loses those important qualities in robot form. In turn robot Maria is psychotic, destructive, scheming and without conscious. She looses all the characteristics that make her human. Her character is intertwined with the modern representation of society in urban/film future because as society and film technology develops during the era of Metropolis, it was easier to believe that a robot Marie could exist or be constructed. However in contrast to technological and industrial development her character regresses as robot Maria.

Caesar, the homicidal psychotic sleepwalker, is places in the midst of new technological developments at the “everything new” fair. He is intertwined with modern representation in the urban/film future because he represents another situation where despite his caretker’s (Caligary) knowledge, power and understanding of the human psyche, allows and encourages Caesar to unconscionably murder. Basically, indirectly Caesar represents a member of a mass following a powerful leader, who still manages to go astray because of his condition and Caligary’s lack of caring, sensitivity and respect towards humanity.

The giant brought to life by Rabbi, is another Frankenstein of sorts, be it a machine as In Maria’s case, clay as in the giant’s case or human (Caesar). In the right hands the giant is an asset and advisary but under the wrong instruction he is a threat, forming a parallel with technology. However instead it is through magic the giant comes to be. This represents the birth of a new world order through the use and adaptation of resources technological and scientific.

In each scenario, the robot persona demonstrates how the intentions of man and his will determine and are primary to the development and survival rate of our species. Also how the means to achieve their goals be it using technology or science can have negative repercussions. The filmmakers are expressing what they imagine and foresee for the future of film and urban society in light of new possible achievements and developments. However the filmmakers acknowledge the down sides of societies advancement by the aforementioned means, such falling out of touch with reality and each-other.

Essentially people need environments in which to express and be heard. They need to feel, reflect and relate, and conduct themselves with sensitivity and compassion. None of the robot personas adhered to this principal. Lastly a message could be that rather than focus on a the design of a cold world of machines and lost interpersonal relationships, made only to empower man, focus on the psychology of the environment around you and its components. Lastly the filmmakers intertwined the robot personas representatively with aspects of a progressive urban fabric and film industry/society and their various visions of the modernity and the future.


Websters Online Dictionary
Film Architecture, 1999 by Prestel Verlag, Munich – London – New York

Natalie Drago 3B

  9. Why was the representation of the urban future presented by Metropolis so engaging in 1927?  

The representation of the Metropolis and it’s under world was so engaging for the people of 1927 because of the mysticism and outlook it had for the future. In 1927 there were no computers, electronic devices were of the simplest nature and urban environments were just experimenting with high rise buildings. A world of such nature of Metropolis was still very new. Having the skyscrapers in the movie modeled after buildings of New York city, it is possible to see that people had expected the urban environment to start expanding towards the sky. To some this brought on many possibilities and answers to urban problems developing in large cities. Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright around the period began to visualize cities of the future with groupings of high rises and bridges interconnecting them. At the time the movie was released, the economy was still booming in what was known as the roaring 20’s. Although the movie was a creation of someone’s imagination, it seemed to the people of the time that such a future was indeed possible. With the growing economy, and wealth due to the stock market, such high rises and wealth of the city could be tangible for people to believe. As well it brought a fear of what could happen if such a growth in the urban environment went out of hand. Overall the movie’s urban future was engaging due to the possibilities it brought forth in a time when modern inventions began to become more and more complex and the urban city dwelling began to expand at an exponential pace.

Andrea Krejcik 3B

  10. Why was the image of Babylon so central to the plot and set development of the film?  

The plot of Metropolis alludes to the story of Babylon to address the need for unity between the master - ‘the head’ - of the city and its workers (the hands) who built and maintains the everyday functions of the Metropolis. The moral of the film, therefore, is that the “mediator between the Head and the Hands must be the heart”. Without the ‘heart’ the workers work aimlessly under inhumane conditions, unaware of the creator’s intensions, and eventually revolts against the creator.

The tower of Babel has a symbolic meaning to the set of Metropolis. The office of Joh Fredersen is referred to the ‘New Tower of Babel’, signifying that by constructing the Metropolis, man had achieved their greatest intention - a parallel to the story of Babylon, where man’s greatest intention is to reach the heavens (although this was never achieved). The Eternal Gardens, with its close resemblance to heaven, is the evidence of the greatness of man in the film, symbolizing man’s ability to achieve their greatest intention.

Vivien Liu 3B

  11. Three films, the carrying off of a woman. Comment. What does this have to do with anything, particularly architecture?  

The three female characters have a fundamental role in the plot of the three movies and their carrying off constitutes a turning point in the story.
The women represent the beauty, the goodness opposed to the wickedness of the three evil characters: Cesare, the Golem and Dr Rottwang.
In “The Cabinet of Dr Caligari”, Jane is seems to be terrorized by and at the same time attracted to Cesare, the sleep-walking man, and their encounter leads to her insanity.
This sort of “automaton” is used by Dr Caligari for his personal and criminal purposes, but this time instead of killing her, Cesare carry her off from her bedroom.
In “The Golem”, Miriam, Rabbi Loew’s daughter, is desired by two men: jealousy leads Famulus, the evil assistant of Rabbi Loew, to revive the Golem, this creature made to save the Jewish people, and takes control of him. The Golem kills Miriam’s lover, Florian, but felt in love with her, takes her away escaping through the streets of the ghetto.
In “Metropolis”, Maria, incarnation of purity and wisdom, wants to bring peace between the different classes in the city and, seen as a danger from Fredersen, master of the city, is carried off and broght into Dr Rottwang’s laboratory.
The three women are carried off from places that are supposed to be safe:Jane and Miriam from their home, from the safety of their own bedroom, they are taken into the wilderness.
Maria is taken away from the catacombe, her temple where she meets and prays with the workers. While being chased by Dr Rottwang she becomes aware of the dark side of her home, she is not able to find the way out from this place so well known from her; she sees the underground where she is used to live, with different eyes discovering things never seen before.

Federica Martella

The carrying off of a woman within the three movies, The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, the Golem, and Metropolis relates to the connections man has with the city.

The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari projects a story of mystery and murder within the city and across the land. The somnambulist instead of killing, carries the woman from the intimacy of her bedroom thus exposing and revealing the mystery and murderer, thus projecting the image of story telling through the realms of man and city.
The carrying off of a woman in the Golem relates to the protection from evil within and outside the city gates. The Golem is the protector of the Jewish people and the act of carrying away the woman becomes that of protection from evil brought from the city.

The story of metropolis and it’s relationship to the city through the act of carrying away a woman is that of the destruction of city for love of machine, machine over architecture. The evil inventor pursuing his love of machine over city.
In conclusion the act of carrying away a woman is a poetic symbolic visual in the relationship of understanding the main themes of the 3 movies being their relationship to the city.

Aaron Nelson

  12. Describe the architectural references of the subterranean world of Metropolis.  
  13. Describe the architectural references of the above ground world of Metropolis.  

The architectural references of the above ground world pertain to an expressionist style that portrays the upper city as profound. One of the fundamental references of the above ground city is to the biblical story of ‘The Tower of Babel’. Erich Kettelhut the key stage designer decided to represent the tower not as a thin elegant piece to the city but as a more robust overbearing building. The tower is lighter in shade then all surrounding buildings signifying supremacy over the city. The grandness of the Tower of Babel is only made possible by the underlying support structure of the ‘lower city’. Here looking at the dull uncanny characteristics of the ‘lower city’ compared to the fluidity of the ‘upper city’ a reference to the differing qualities of the post industrialized city and expressionist city is made.

A second reference of key importance is the resemblance of Metropolis to the city center of a modern North American city. Metropolis is represented as hyper dense to emphasize the grand scale of the upper city. However the reference goes beyond the vertical density of any existing North American city creating a new urban typology yet to be discovered in any modern city. The oversized scale of the architecture of the upper city represents supremacy over the lower city. Again the scale of the Tower of Babel is significant in its display of size as power.

When looking at other examples that were tested in fitting the context of the city of Metropolis Erich Kettelhut explores Art Deco and Modernism. Tall glass buildings rise to the left and right of the Tower of Babel that seem to resemble modern works of Mies van der Rohe and other significant modern architects. These buildings frame the view of the Tower of Babel whose architectural language references toward Art Deco rather than modernism. Significantly, during the time filming of Metropolis took place Art Deco was the emerging avant-garde style.

Another notable reference in Metropolis is the scale of infrastructure which measures at the scale of the city’s grand Architecture. Highway overpasses float far above the ground plane at a height not even present in 21st century cites. There is a resemblance to the hyper scale of highway overpasses present in such commuter cities as Toronto and Los Angeles. The highways in the movie are representational of the idea of technology. The infrastructure is evidence of a technologically sophisticated society.

The key moves in representing the architecture of the upper city point toward an overall statement about the scale of the city and the distribution of power through the city’s buildings and infrastructure.

Michael Votruba 3B
  14. Do you think the visualization of the above ground representation of transportation is significant in Metropolis? Why or why not?  

The visualization of the above ground representation of transportation communicates the intended urban vision in Metropolis very effectively. Metropolis projects a cold, monotonous and robotic cityscape of the future. The many layers of cars on highways intertwining with the numerous tall towers, and with the aircrafts flying through a city full of robotic energy shows the advent of technology to the point of its overtaking humanity in its significance. The crowdedness presents quantity, growth, speed and efficiency as the moral imperatives, with technology triumphant over religion. In Metropolis, moreover, the essential means of travel for every citizen is mechanized, automated. Thus, even today’s viewer of Metropolis can immediately place himself in the sea of cars and associate with the daily grind in the film’s setting. With that, the viewer becomes immediately sympathetic to the urban vision and understands more deeply the fear being expressed.

Clementine Chang -- Masters

  15. How is the idea/identity of insanity connected with Modern architecture?  
  All three films portray the idea of insanity in a different light. I’m not sure if you could say that modern architecture induces insanity in these films, however, architecture is definitely the reflection of insanity. They all draw parallels to the idea that technology has the ability to create insanity; in this case it is not specifically modern architecture that is the cause, but rather an ever longing quest for modern science.

The film The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari definitely connects the idea of insanity with architecture. Calagari himself, a literal example; the set itself is a product of the confusion and demented reality Doctor Caligari is living. The asylum however does not share this sense of chaos to the same extreme, could this be because the asylum had walls to contain the madness? This is a very interesting parallel; the asylum can almost be seen as a conservative metaphor. Suggesting we can have crazy ideas, but they must be controlled and unexposed, kept inside our minds. There is a duality created between the internal and external. The distortion of reality is reflected in the chaos of the set, curved walls, structures appear to move, the set has a very expressionistic sensibility. The film makes a clear statement about the implications of modern science on our culture (not just architecture); it suggests that the pursuit of this science will lead us to madness. This is realized through the architecture, architecture being the science, and we as the architects are influenced by the pursuit of modern architecture and science; the implication is that the price we will pay to attain it will be our sense of reality and our sanity.

The Golem insinuates the larger implications of modern science, suggesting that control is an illusion. The connection between insanity and science has a moral subtext, inferring that nature will always find a way. Regardless of the restrictions we impose there will always be errors, the technology will never be perfect, because we are human, and by our very nature are not perfect. The Golem himself is an example of this, his creator did not account for self guided will and desire. We are caught in a catch twenty-two; we have the means to do what we want too but how do we do it without disturbing the balance? There is always more then one way of solving a problem, to avoid chaos and insanity, ideally we should assess all of them leaving our errors for the most insignificant circumstance. Through this example insanity is connected to science, it implies that we have to be mindful of our thoughts and ideas.

Metropolis draws direct relationships between insanity, modern architecture, and modern technology. The most obvious example is ‘the machine.’ In Metropolis the architecture itself is technology and is a symbol of power, it controls the city. Frederer (its creator) reaping the benefits of that power. The same illusion of control seen in The Golem is present in Metropolis; in this case it is the robot Hel that disturbs the balance. The architecture itself is stylistically representative of the Futurists, who had a very distinct political agenda. Lang was most likely aware of this agenda, and given the subtext of the film was quite conceivably a part of this movement . The communist/fascist thread is very evident in the film, especially through the very distinct classes that appear throughout the film (the workers below, the aristocrats above), clearly a political statement. This suggests that this political stance is the way of the future, the architecture of the future and the culture of the future. This would seem to be a correct assessment, but the system falls apart and breaks down, it is flawed, it advocates the fact that the theory is flawed, because again the system is only as good as it creator(s). It suggests a sense of disconnectedness from the system, “…the hands that built it knew nothing of the mind that conceived it.” Is this a critique of modern architecture or culture? It surely is an accurate assessment of where we stand; most errors are due to a lack of communication, a barrier between the creator and the fabricator. This implies that to truly attain a sane modern culture (e.g. architecture, art, film, politics) we truly have to work together, which is extremely ironic, because this is a very modern (post war) point of view, coming from a time when communist ideals were just flourishing. The idea of insanity is portrayed in every aspect of culture in this film; it makes a huge statement about the future of the modern metropolis.

All three of these films manage to draw reference to various flaws within the development of our culture at the time; they manage to caution us against the uncontrolled practice of modern ideals. They make us aware of the potential catastrophes of science without understanding purpose, to avoid creating ‘things’ for the sake of being able to do so.

Mark Cichy -- masters
  16. In Metropolis, why are machines personified as evil? Are they? Why the focus on machines? What do machines have to do with architecture at this point in history?  
  Machines by themselves are portrayed as evil when they are used for the wrong purposes. The ending clearly states that they are necessary for survival in a complex world such as Metropolis. The whole film seems like propaganda for a machine oriented industry especially since this is about the time when Ford launched the first assembly line type of workplace. People aren't reacting to the elimination of human labour here, just the repetitive mind numbing aspects of this type of workplace. Also, cars, which are the most conspicuous new mechanical device, are only afforded by the very rich and may be seen as little more than playthings at this point in time. The workers would justifiably see machines as supplying offensive pastimes for the rich and inhuman working conditions for the working class.
The ending of the film demonstrates the benefits of working machinery to everyone when it becomes clear that the city would be flooded in darkness without it. Machines are good because they benefit everyone. The focus on the city may be the result of the introduction of skyscrapers and dense urban cores, only achievable with the incorporation of machinery to pump water, light deep spaces and elevate into higher stacked buildings. This may all result in a more impersonal world for which the church appears to be held up as an antidote. The machine-man is portrayed as the personification of the seven deadly sins while the real Maria promotes peace and co-operation, as though love and understanding would bridge the social gap between the rich and poor. The machine world has separated the hands from the head and becomes anarchy without the heart to hold it together. As usual with the church, this plays nicely into the hands of the business owners who need to convince the proles that their drudgery is worthwhile and appreciated. Maria is supposed to convince everyone they are striving for the same goal while in reality the cream is still going to the rich and the machine world really keeps the poor away from the sight of rich surface dwellers.

Nancy Gibson -- Masters
  17. Connect the role of children in Metropolis with their role in Golem.  
  The first thing that struck me about the role of children in both Golem and Metropolis was how selective their appearances were. They did not appear often in either film or take on a role of involvement within the communities. However, their role was very important in both Golem and Metropolis. In both films the children brought an end to the chaos that was occurring. In Golem, it was the small child playing outside the gate who was finally able to stop the Golem from his rampage, although totally unintentionally. It was her innocence and trust that calmed him. In Metropolis, the madness of the workers was ceased when they were asked “where are your children?”. They were stopped again when they were informed that their children were safe.

In both films there were two groups or classes of people at odds with each other, and it was the children that were able to link them. The local children of the city were able to save the Jewish ghetto, and in Metropolis the acceptance of the workers children into the Garden of Eternal Sons was the first step to bridging the gap between the two worlds. Both films used the symbolic aspect of the child, innocence, trust and purity to unify the two groups.

Elizabeth Myers 3B
  18. A conversation:  

After watching the last film I was walking home. I was in Cambridge, actually downtown Galt. If you live there or if it happened to you to walk or drive through these lands, you can easily image how crowded it could be. I heard something while I was walking, a conversation.
I just recorded as I listened to it.

Mr G: Hi
Mr M: Hi
Mr G: So...How do you feel?
Mr M: Fine thanks. But tired, a bit.
Mr G: Did you think it would have been easier?
Mr M: I don’t know, I just know it was an hard task.
Mr G: Tell me, I’m deadly curious.
Mr M:’s really charming...I mean...the idea of such a “journey”...being in that position...
Mr G: Do you think so?
Mr M: Well, don’t you do that all the time?
Mr G: If I did it, things would be different.
Mr M: Anyway, I’m not sure I wished I was you. Some aspects...when I tried to could know...the myth of life to your own creature...
Mr G: But you can give life!
Mr M: Yeah, but I can’t decide and above all I can’t control
Mr G: Neither do I
Mr M: Are you saying we are similar?
Mr G: Some may say such a way...but tell me more.
Mr M: Ok...I was a doctor. In a certain way he can decide who has to live or die. Like You. When he appears he can actually solve the situation. People was afraid of me. Like of You. I had this huge office, I had this deep knowledge. I knew things others didn’t know. And I was powerful, I could heal people, I could control people. They used to do what i want them to do.
Mr G: That was a dream...
Mr M: I know, it was an ill dream. The dream of an insane man...but I was a doctor, indeed! I had all these people in my realm, in my “castle”, my world.
Mr G: longed to be me...
Mr M: No, I didn’t...well, maybe I thought about it a couple of times...I thought I could be.
Mr G: Perhaps, you were just wandering through your mind...and when you find yourself in such a place you can feel like being anyone...
Mr M: You may be right...then I tried again.
Mr G: I know, but then it was were a rabbi. That’s really my field...
Mr M: I just did what You did...I create a man plasming mud and clay and then I gave him life
Mr G: I just have had to breathe life into had to ask for had to cast a spell on him...
Mr M: Is that the trick? That’s why I couldn’t control him...
Mr G: There must be some difference...
Mr M: So that’s why at a certain point he starts acting not obeying me anymore, ignoring all my orders...but in the very beginning...
Mr G: ...the beginning is always easier...untill they don’t face reality, until they don’t taste real life, and in the end...there’s always a woman...
Mr M: I know, I know...I also tried to create a woman, but she was just a doll in my hands...
Mr G: That’s what makes difference...
Mr M: Intelligence?
Mr G: I’d rather say...soul
Mr M: Soul, right...She was intelligent, she could convince many people to do what she want them to do, but when something went wrong, she couldn’t manage the situation...
Mr G: Yes, the work I did on you is much tougher...
Mr M: ...then the work I did with my creatures.
Mr G: Yes, you’re always trying to imitate me, you’re always trying to climb up to my remember the Babel Tower, don’t you?
Mr M: Yes, I do. We tried to reach you..but at length You always win.
Mr G: Some people think I don’t exist...I don’t mind anyway
Mr M: I’m one of those. I’m sure I’m talking to some part of my brain.
Mr G: The damaged part?
Mr M: Yes, probably. I think I’ll go now.
Mr G: Already?
Mr M: Yes, sorry about that. I’m going to see another film.
Mr G: I see...
Mr M: Take care!
Mr G: Cheers!

Christian Tognela -- Italian Masters Exchange Student

  19. The Role of Fashion in Metropolis:  

In Metropolis, fashion plays a role similar to that of architecture: just as buildings often carry existing styles such as Art Deco or Gothic, costumes are also reminiscent of history rather than the futuristic vision of the film. Instead of contributing to an accurate vision of the future, fashion has a visually allusive purpose. It serves to throw the characters into their archetypal roles, where Freder, the mediator and son of the creator, is dressed aristocratically and almost childishly, emphasizing his innocense and purity; Maria, the prophetess, is dressed like a peasant and fits in with her Gothic surroundings more than with the reality of the industrialized society. Her clothing detaches her from this reality as effectively as her actual physical separation from the crowd, as she speaks from her pulpit. It also emphasizes the contrast between Maria and her robotic double, immodestly dressed and draped in jewels, a direct correlation to the biblical whore of Babylon. Fashion works with exaggerated gestures and expressions to juxtapose good with evil, using the Bible as a reference.

These references help to uproot characters from the specific context of the film, so that any audience, whether contemporary or sometime in the future, can relate the issues of Metropolis back to their own world. An example of a direct parallel would be Joh Fredersen’s costume: that of the contemporary businessman, the cold and impersonal corporate face. It casts him as a character that already inhabits reality, so that the audience can understand his personality and motives as a personification and criticism of this reality.

Olivia Keung -- Masters

  20. Three movies, Three Questions, Threesholds  

In all of the three films, sets are linked to plot events according to specific built thresholds which metaphorically mark important scenes from both psychological and narrative point of view.

In The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the crossing of physical boundaries is corresponding to a growing tension, the beginning crisys of everyday reality, which is more and more pervaded by a sense of anguishing alienation.

Sets are built by a few expressive elements; they look almost unreal, because they describe both pysical environment and characters’ state of mind at the same time, trying to involve the viewer’s feeling into the plot as well.

Among the others, some scenes are particularly expressive of progressive path toward insanity:
The flowing crowd entering the Fair in town, approaching a new reality, far from the small village on the background;
the step giving easy access to the pavillion of Caligari that marks a threshold between the realm of normality and insanity;
the deck on top of which the two dummy guards are sitting, a strong representation of oppressive and repressive power.
Given the more and more growing anxiety, some narrative thresholds are enfatized by dialogue signs (Murder, Murder), which allude to the next precipitation of following events.

The coming into Jane’s room of the sonnambulyist Cesare, who is kidnapping her from the safe bed and dwelling towards the darkness of night (the dark side of the dreamlike moon, or the dark side of force, if you like it).
This step is furtherly marked by the crowd trespassing the bridge. The bridge is definitively leading to a new world, where the normal and the insane coexist in the same reality, the former being true and the latter being onyric, although both of them are really influencing the raising urban modern life.

The most espressive threshold is, in this sense, the access to Asylum director/Dr. Caligari’s office. Here is where the flowing lines of the floor, as a water stream of human feelings, converge to the rational limit of the desk, as well as schizofrenic obsession and scientific truth merge in the same book, the doctor’s log.

In the end we pass the threshold of madness, where Francis falls down: the asylum, acting as symbol of the appearently perfect ordered city, is the only architectural building marked by a rythm, a series of clearly solid, straight standing arches, lined up to the camera axes, as opposed to the previous sets of odds buildings and urban landscapes, which were seen through a distorced perspective.

The cartesian order is contaminated only by the sun rays painted on the floor, which sneek into the arches across the staircase, simulating how the natural, unconscious part of our personalty is always coming back to surface from the inner interiority. In this atmosphere Francis is considered crazy since he judges peoples and events differently, in a way closer to natural reality of facts than to the apparent authenticity proposed by omologation.

In Golem and in Metropolis the role of City and Architecture as narrative and psychological thresholds evolve. In the former the opposition between the ideal city full of steeples and the medieval wall-sorrounded ghetto expresses the basic conflict between dominant class and those who live at the margins of society (bannered people?)

Also in this case the trespassing threshold is the bridge crossing, a preparing act for next emotional and narrative stressing events.

Key moments like the arrival of rabbi Loew and Golem at king’s court, the Golem assault at the door and the kdnapping of Miriam, the distruction of the village main door, mark the process that leads Golem from an unconscious state of servant to his conscious life, summarized in his desire and his will for distruction. As opposed to this escalation we see the rabbi Loew lonely crossing the big arch, searching for the Golem and looking for his responsibility demanded by collectivity.

The architectural catalyist is, at this point, the elicoidal staircase that leads to the tower top. It was in the background along the all movie and suddenly becomes the architectural protagonist at the very center of the stage, during the fire sequence, a symbol for Golem’s interior state.

Last, but not least, Metropolis: the progress in scenography, photography and special effects making might one think of a simple spectacolarization of the environment, while the stage compexity is still strongly related to the metaphor of thresholds, which in the movie act as key signs of narrative, social and psychlogical changing conditions.

Vertical threshold takes over: lifts taking blueworkers down to the macine city, or taking high class people up to eden garden, but also lifts bringing Maria and the children to step in a forbidden planet;
Again, the Moloch placed on top of the staircase that breaks the rythm of the alienating work sequence, the vertcal access to Rotwang’s underground laboratory. These are all signs of next key moments in the film, and therefore acting as thresholds.

The growing complexity of this structural and narrative mechanism exceeds the mere tecnological progress:
while the horizontal thresholds deal with psycological conditions of individual characters, the vertical thresholds are crossed by a social conflict at a larger scale, the scale of selfdistruction in place of social emancipation (despite the forced happy endng).

In the end we see how the development of shooting tecnique affects the notion of threshold: the camera starts moving across the stage, changing its structure and its role along the same sequence. Through subjective framing, the hunt for Maria, the real threshold moves from physical stage set to the picture plane. The subject moves from spectator into a protagonist role, by means of his reframing events in space and time continously. The set is now at the same level of characters, since it is changing its conditions of light, shadows, and perspective, that make the set expressive as well as a playing actor. The process of making the background active as the foreground is latent in Dr. Caligari’s movie, it is imanent in Golem and becomes evdent in Metropolis, where the camera produces conditions for a defintively speaking architecture, taking it away from its previous static and contemplative condition and naming it the protagonist of raising modernism.

Cambridge, 28.09.2004

Francesco M. Mancini -- Italian Masters Exchange Student

I set di tutti i film si relazionano alla trama secondo un abbinamento evento-soglia, che esalta l’aspetto psicologico e metaforico della narrazione. Nel Gabinetto del Dottor Caligari, al varcare limiti fisici della scena o da una scena ad un’altra corrisponde un crescendo della tensione che rappresenta la crisi della realtà quotidiana, sempre più pervasa da un senso di estraneità inquietante, fatta di mistero e di follia. Le soglie costruite sono sinteticamente rappresentate in piena sintonia con il principio espressionista secondo cui la descrizione essenziale dell’ambiente, aldilà delle necessità narrative riflette lo stato d’animo degli attori e, possibilmente, del pubblico.

Tra gli altri l’ingresso alla fiera del fiume di folla proveniente dalla piccola città, il gradino che solleva dalla concretezza reale del suolo il padiglione espositivo del dr. Calidari; Il ripiano rialzato, posto in un ambiente frontale, ordinato rispetto alla machina da presa, dove siedono, su sgabelli troppo alti, gli ottusi gendarmi, rappresentanti del potere oppressivo e repressivo. In un crescendo di ansia e di insicurezza, alcune soglie narrative sono enfatizzate dalla grafica dei cartelli dei dialoghi (Murder, Murder), che alludono al precipitare degli eventi successivi. L’ingresso del sonnambulo (Cesare) nella stanza di Jane, il rapimento dal sicuro riparo del letto e della casa verso il buio della notte è sancito dal superamento emblematico del ponte, che porta la folla verso un nuovo mondo, dove normalità e follia convivono nella stessa realtà, l’una vera, l’altra onirica, ma entrambe autenticamente parte della nascente vita urbana moderna.

La soglia più espressiva di questa condizione è l’ingresso al gabinetto del dr. Caligari/direttore dell’asylum, lo spazio limite dove si fondono, nello stesso libro, ossessione schizofrenica e verità scientifica.

Infine la soglia della follia, la disperazione esistenziale in cui Francis sprofonda: l’asylum, simbolo della apparente perfezione ordinatrice della città, è l’unico ambiente architettonico opposto alle deformate ambientazioni degli interni e dei paesaggi urbani precedenti.

Costruito secondo un ritmo di arcate, icone riconoscibili, riferimenti orizzontali e verticali chiari, alla solidità costruttiva dell’asylum si contrappone soltanto la marcata e invadente raggiera solare del pavimento del cortile. In questa atmosfera il folle è creduto colui che giudica in modo diverso, più vicino alla naturale realtà dei fatti che alla apparente autenticità indotta dall’omologazione.

Anche in Golem e in Metropolis Città e architettura agiscono come soglie narrative e psicologiche. Nel primo l’opposizione città ideale di guglie e ghetto medievale cinto da mura sta alla base del conflitto tra dominatori ed emarginati: la soglia di passaggio è segnata anche in questo caso dal ponte, che prepara agli eventi narrativi ed emotivi più importanti.
Decisivi sono l’ingresso alla festa del re, lo sfondamento della porta e il rapimento di Miriam, l’abbattimento della porta della città: questi momenti segnano il passaggio dall’inconscio alla progressiva consapevolezza da parte del Golem della propria vita, cioè dei propri desideri. A questa escalation si oppone il passaggio solitario del rabbi Loew sotto l’arco, alla ricerca del Golem e delle proprie responsabilità.
Il nodo architettonico al culmine di questo processo sta nella scala elicoidale, che nella scena cruciale del film passa da sfondo scenografico a protagonista architettonico in primo piano nella sequenza dell’incendio, simbolo della spirale distruttiva di cui il Golem è preda.

Infine Metropolis: l’affinamento delle scenografie potrebbe far pensare ad una semplice spettacolarizzazione dell’ambiente, una drammatizzazione superficiale, mentre la loro complessità è ancora al servizio della metafora dell’attraversamento e del mutamento delle condizioni narrative psicologiche e sociali nei momenti chiave del film.
Gli ascensori e i cancelli che portano i lavoratori automi alla città delle macchine, l’ascensore che porta Maria al giardino dell’eden accompagnata dall’innocenza dei bambini, le fauci del Moloch che irrompono nella rimata sequenza del lavoro alienante, la scala a chiocciola che segna l’ingresso al gabinetto di Rotwang, l’invasone dell’acqua dalle aperture dei sotterranei. Essi sono tutti segni di momenti chiave del film, più complessi rispetto ai primi due per le seguenti ragioni.

La prima è che bisogna distinguere tra la soglia orizzontale, in cui cambiano le condizioni psicologiche, i desideri dell’individuo, e la soglia verticale, attraversata dai conflitti di classe cui corrisponde la catastrofe dell’autodistruzione, e non la definitiva emancipazione sociale (a dispetto del forzato lieto fine). Il secondo è che, grazie alla crescita tecnologica, la macchina da presa comincia a muoversi, cambiando completamente il ruolo e la struttura del set. Così, nella sequenza soggettiva della cattura di Maria, la vera soglia non è più solo parte della scena, ma è il quadro di visione, il soggetto che da spettatore diventa protagonista e reinquadra gli avvenimenti nel tempo e nello spazio, ricevendo stimoli non solo dalle emozioni dei personaggi, ma anche dalla scena, ad essi pariteticamente espressiva, perché continuamente mutevole sotto il gioco di luci che accompagna il movimento della camera. Nel rendere definitivamente attivo lo sfondo, un processo latente nel Gabinetto del dr. Calidari e immanente nel Golem, la camera di Metropolis rende definitivamente parlante la sua architettura, prima ancora che i suoi protagonisti, sottraendola alla staticità contemplativa e proclamandola macchina, la protagonista del nascente modernismo.


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